Football rivalry heats up
THERE is plenty of bad blood between Byron Bay and Mullumbimby – the towns and the football clubs.
Poached juniors, forfeited games, and a neighbouring rivalry that dates back to settlement.
Tomorrow afternoon at Byron Bay Rugby League Ground, the Red Devils and the Giants will square off again in the NRRRL.
This time both clubs will be looking to arrest a downward slide after making promising starts to the season.
Byron Bay captain-coach Simon Kelly won’t need any help motivating his men.
“This is one that gets circled on the calendar,” Kelly said. “The boys have been pumped all week and I am sure Mullum are the same.”
Giants coach Scott Hogan has ensured his men are equally fired up.
“We just hate them, this is one game you don’t want to lose,” Hogan said.
“It’s a bit like NSW and Queensland; it’s built in that we don’t like them.”
Even so, he thinks the home-grown spirit in the club could be on the wane.
“The rivalry isn’t as fierce as it used to be. A lot of the Byron boys aren’t even from Byron so they wouldn’t know a thing about the place,” he said.
Back-rower Brett Hazlett, a Byron junior, will turn out against his old club in a Giants jersey.
Kelly recalls how he got there.
“Byron wasn’t going so great a few years back and a heap of our juniors ended up at Mullum,” he said.
But that has nothing on the 2007 debacle when Mullum requested that the derby fixture be played on a Saturday night.
“Their lights were no good,” Kelly said. “So we refused and ended up losing the points. That cost us big at the end of the year, maybe the difference between third and fifth.”
“There was a lot of bad blood after that – still is.”
Playing into Byron’s hands this time is the return of strike centre Clarence Kelly.
Byron hasn’t won since the third round over Kyogle and Clarence Kelly has been badly missed.
“He gives everyone that extra bit of confidence,” Simon Kelly said.
“He is a good leader and always good for a couple of tries.”
Mullumbimby have been able to name a largely unchanged line-up.
Mullum are fifth on the ladder, Byron equal sixth; in all likelihood, one will be in the top five come Monday, while the other will be on the outside looking in.